Accused church shooter may have planned attack for months, friend says

"He was big into segregation and other stuff ... He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself," said Dalton Tyler, a former roommate of Dylann Roof.
By Andrew V. Pestano, Amy R Connolly and Doug G. Ware   |   Updated June 19, 2015 at 12:58 AM
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CHARLESTON, S.C., June 18 (UPI) -- Dylann Roof, the man accused of opening fire inside a black Methodist church in South Carolina late Wednesday -- killing nine people -- may have planned the mass murder for months, his roommate said Thursday.

Police say Roof, 21, was the man who patiently attended a meeting Wednesday evening -- and then started shooting inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. By the time the shooting was over, eight were dead and a ninth died later.

Dalton Tyler, a former roommate who knew Roof for months, told ABC News Thursday that the accused gunman had spoken to him about acting on violent impulses.

"He was big into segregation and other stuff," Tyler said. "He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself."

Roof, though, did not commit suicide after the shooting rampage. Police said he was picked up in North Carolina Thursday during a traffic stop.

Tyler mentioned in his interview with ABC News that Roof's parents had purchased a gun for him, and allowed him to leave the house with it for the first time just last week. He also noted that he believed that Roof had been "planning something like [the church shooting] for six months."

According to authorities, Roof killed six women and three men in the rampage -- between the ages of 26 and 87. A witness told police the gunman calmly stood, removed his firearm and said, "You are raping our women and taking over the country. You have to go."

As gunfire echoed through the church, people dove for cover or shielded loved ones. The gunman told one woman she would be spared so that "she can tell the story of what happened."

"She is still in shock, the carnage was just unbelievable is my understanding," City Councilman William Dudley Gregorie said of the woman spared by the killer.

Another woman and her five-year-old granddaughter played dead -- and survived, unharmed.

President Barack Obama stated a "deep sorrow" Thursday over the "senseless murders that took place."

Obama said his family knew several members of the Emanuel AME Church, including South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, one of the dead who served as pastor of the church.

"To say our thoughts and prayers are with them, and their families, and their community doesn't say enough to convey the heartache, and the sadness, and the anger that we feel," Obama said. "Any death of this sort is a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy. There is something particularly heartbreaking about death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace."

Obama said he was restricted on speaking about the details of the investigation, but emphasized the sadness of his having to address events like these during his two terms in the White House.

"I don't need to be constrained about the emotions that tragedies like this raise. I've had to make statements like this too many times," he said. "Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times."

Obama then delivered another stern criticism of the United States' current gun rights culture -- something he has disparaged with every firearms-related tragedy he has had to face while in office, like the December 2012 shooting rampage at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School, that left 20 young children dead.

"We do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun."

In announcing Roof's arrest, U.S. Attorney Gen. Loretta Lynch called the shooting "barbaric" and witnesses told police that the gunman was there "to shoot black people."

Authorities are investigating the rampage as a hate crime.

"Even as we struggle to comprehend this heartbreaking event, I want everyone in Charleston and everyone affected by this tragedy to know that we will do everything in our power to heal this community and make it whole again," Lynch said.

A tearful South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said, "It's a day that we will get through and a day that we will remember."

Roof has previously been arrested twice as an adult in South Carolina, including a first-offense drug possession charge in March and a trespassing charge in April.

A Facebook photo of Roof shows him wearing a jacket with patches that appear to be the Apartheid South Africa flag and one that resembles the pre-Independence flag of Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe. Both flags are from African countries when they were under white rule.

The FBI, the Department of Justice, the Sate Law Enforcement Division, the coroner's office and multiple police agencies are assisting in the investigations.

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